A couple of months ago I blogged about what it means to be a female musician today. Recently I've been thinking about what it's like to be a female music fan/geek as well and I've decided it's just as weird and shit. This was summed up for me the other day when I was in Sister Ray, a record shop in Soho, and I was the only woman there. And this isn't a one-off. I've always found independent and second hand record shops to be full of boys. The same goes for gigs, at a fairly recent Sonic Youth gig I attended girls were outnumbered by boys by at least three to one.
Are girl music geeks invisible on the music scene? Are there thousands, even millions, of us listening to bootlegs and b-sides in our bedrooms feeling intimidated by the macho atmosphere of many gigs and record shops? Absolutely. I know I was worried recently when I thought I was going to a Sonic Youth gig (yes, another one) alone. Last time was pretty rough, everybody was taller than me, male and going nuts. There's no way I'm going to hide away at the back when I could be thrashing about at the front but it's always good to know that you have a friend there to haul you up from the floor if needs be. There's also the problem for girls at gigs that some horrible boys will use their proximity to you, and the fact that you are stuck, to get 'handsy'. This can range from people rubbing up against you and groping because they think you won't notice in the throng (I did notice, and I know you noticed my elbow in your ribs and the bruise it must have left), to more serious sexual assaults and even rape and gang rape (during Limp Bizkit and KoRn at Woodstock). Most women who attend gigs will have dealt with some sort of behaviour on this spectrum.
I've written before about women feeling like they can't take up space and I think this is apparent at gigs which can become dangerous. It's safer to move and thrash along with everybody else than to stand still in the midst of everything and get trampled. Perhaps we're too scared to be rude to the asshole rubbing up us because we're taught to be polite and that if he gets angry we won't be able to defend ourselves. I remember being so pleased that I wasn't wearing a skirt as I crowd-surfed my way out of Pixies at Reading Festival, you hear of so many girls being violated in that situation.
And if it wasn't crap enough to fear being assaulted at a gig or embarrassed at a record shop, we also have to look out for girl-hate based on our love of music. If you wear a band t-shirt you face girls talking behind your back, 'She's just wearing it coz she thinks it's cool. Eurgh, I hate girls like that, it's so desperate.' People who wear band t-shirts of bands they don't like are lame, but why assume that somebody isn't a genuine fan just because they're female? I'm sure her boyfriend wouldn't be accused of being a shallow hipster if he was wearing it. I almost feel that some girls view themselves as the only real female music fan in the world, the rest of us are faking to get a boyfriend. I'm not saying you should be friends with every girl you see wearing a t-shirt of your favourite band, but I wish people would acknowledge how sexist and macho the alternative music scene can be and not buy into that bullshit. I'm reminded of a couple of my favourite points from the riot grrrl manifesto:
BECAUSE we are interested in creating non-heirarchical ways of being AND making music, friends, and scenes based on communication + understanding, instead of competition + good/bad categorizations.
BECAUSE we are unwilling to let our real and valid anger be diffused and/or turned against us via the internalization of sexism as witnessed in girl/girl jealousism and self defeating girltype behaviors.
I want girls to be happy when they see another girl in a t-shirt, it means more female faces at gigs. We should be getting stuck in at the front with our girl friends, teaching those boys who take advantage of the fact they're lucky enough to be near us in all our awesomeness exactly what happens if you touch us without our permission. One last point from the riot grrrl manifesto:
BECAUSE we know that life is much more than physical survival and are patently aware that the punk rock "you can do anything" idea is crucial to the coming angry grrrl rock revolution which seeks to save the psychic and cultural lives of girls and women everywhere, according to their own terms, not ours.